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Brothers Unexpectedly Discover Fossil of Japan’s Oldest Water Bird

Two brothers in Japan happened upon the fossilized remains of the country’s first and oldest fossil of a diving bird. The new species is named Chupkaornis keraorum.

Credit: Illustration by Masato Hattori

When two brothers were walking near a reservoir in a small town in northern Japan, one noticed something peculiar in the ground. The brothers collected a few of the intriguing pieces and took them to paleontologists at a nearby university.

The pieces turned out to be fossils of the oldest bird ever found in Japan: an ancient, toothed, diving bird whose species had never been identified by science.

The new species, named Chupkaornis keraorum, belonged to a group of ancient birds, hesperorinthiforms, that were flightless, expert water divers during the Cretaceous.[Avian Ancestors: Dinosaurs That Learned to Fly (Gallery)]

Chupkaornis,scientists estimate, lived between 90 million and 84 million years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. It is the “best-preserved” specimen of this kind of bird from Asia, and the first hesperorinthiform found from the eastern part of the Eurasian continent, according to astudy published Tuesday (Aug. 8) in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology.

“There has never been a bird likethis found in Japan before. It’s exciting any time you can put a new dot on themap,” Anthony Fiorillo, curator and vice president of research and collections at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas, told Live Science. “It’s really helping us understand the global distribution of a widespread group of birds. And it helps us understand their early evolution.”

Fiorillo, who was a co-author of the study, told Live Science that the bird was the size of a “good-sized duck” and gobbled up fish, which it dove for and captured using its sharp teeth. The bird’s fossil featured powerful hind limbs and somewhat…

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